Kingsman: The Secret Service was a film that offended many but excited even more, enough to warrant production on this boundary pushing sequel. With all the original team back in the fold, from director Matthew Vaughn to stars Taron Egerton, Mark Strong and Colin Firth, this sequel begins with the destruction of the Kingsman headquarters – forcing Agents Eggsy and Merlin to find new alliances in the US with an even larger spy organization known as Statesman.
An already divisor filmmaker leading up to production, Vaughn’s plan for the original Kingsman was to collect every complaint ever made against his previous work and amplify them all as much as humanly possible in one hilariously smug spy parody/tribute, an effort that somehow resulted in the best movie of his career. Here the formula is less self-assured and after a typically inventive opening car chase the film stumbles from set piece to set piece. Vaughn’s action scenes are again his biggest asset, expertly choreographed and brutally violent, but the movie’s solid premise is continually undone by a disappointing screenplay that clearly lacks the winking spark of its predecessor. Jokes consistently miss the mark and an extended cameo from Elton John is the most cringe-worthy mistake the director has ever made.
Which is a shame given the exceptional cast involved and how insanely fun the original was. While Egerton and Strong are great together again and Julieanne Moore has fun as the ruthless megalomaniac Poppy Adams, Firth doesn’t quite fit this time round and Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum and Halle Berry all feel painfully underused. There’s usually a certain charm in Vaughn’s efforts to upset as many people as possible, but he overreaches here time and again. Kingsman: The Golden Circle offers hints of a much better film, but can’t help but feel like a frustrating waste for all involved.